The Case Of Russia: How To Increase Sales B2B-service From Zero To 14 Million Rubles A Year With Content Marketing

In late 2013 we launched the service Dadata in addition to our core business HFLabs — the company-developer of enterprise solutions for data normalization and search for them. For many small companies HFLabs products were too expensive, so we made a new product to cover the needs of small and medium business. Its development did I, the founder HFLabs, a former computer programmer, project Manager and account Manager. At first I thought that dial users would be easy.

You need to make the product free — and the marketing will happen by itself. However, this hypothesis has not worked. Moreover, we were accused of collecting bases for spam. Why else would someone handle user contact information for free. During the six months of development left five million, but could not earn.

It became clear that for the survival of the project, you just need to actively engage in marketing. I decided that it is logical to entrust this work to a professional, and began to search the staff of marketer. You need to configure contextual advertising, engage in email and content marketing. Realizing that in marketing I am a complete zero, was looking for a employee on the recommendations of friends. It seemed that the market is facing a lot of candidates — for example, people with experience of promoting large ecommerce projects.

There is a very acute issue of data quality that users drive when ordering. Even then I knew that online shopping is our target audience. In reality things went much worse. First, the lack of experience didnt allow me to understand how much should cost a marketer and that he should be able. Second, it turned out that the promotion of complex B2B product and promotion online store are two completely different tasks, requiring different experience and competence.

In the end, I hired a marketer with a salary of 80 thousand rubles per month. It is two months have set up a contextual advertising with no visible exhaust and was dismissed after he sent all customers a letter with errors. I later learned that the context was not configured even targets in “Metric”. But I finally understood that I will be able to find a worthwhile employee, but only if she will start to understand marketing. To begin, I decided to try to raise the level of knowledge in two channels — context and publication.

Contextual advertising I read the book “Profitable contextual advertising”, after which she set up a series of ads for Dadata. Soon to Tinker with contextual advertising I was bored and I found an external marketer thats the direction. Now with the context in “Yandex.Direct” we get new customers in 100 thousand roubles a year, so it is quite pays for itself. The difficulty with publications that I, as a techie by profession, it was hard to assess the quality of what was done by third-party journalists. I instinctively knew that something article wrong, and what could not explain.

So I went full-time four-day course of infostil the founder of “Glavred” Maxim Eliahou. And then, to see the opposite point of view, went on three-day courses to Sergei Abdulmanova. I really liked (and like) the posts for the “Mosigry”, which says Sergey, but it does not infostil. After these courses and several months of practice, I came to the conclusion that she could write a simple article for our blog on “habré” and arguments to assess the quality of articles by third party authors. In the book Traction.

How Any Startup Can Achieve Explosive Customer Growth Gabriel Weinberg and Justin Meyers lists 11 ways to drive traffic for a startup. Among other things, the author talks about the advantages of working with the media. We decided to engage in such promotion. It seemed logical. We have a fairly complex and niche B2B product, which is not so easy to explain.

I thought I should post for various publications and target audiences in which the product will be referred to in appropriate contexts. When working with the media, you can get quick targeted traffic. At the same time is a method with a low threshold of entrance. It is possible most to write good material and to offer his edition of the selected or “volunteered” for an interview. Experience has shown that this approach can be successful — for example, interviews for vc.ru (in 2013, “Zuckerberg will Call”) brought traffic and sales.

Similarly worked, and a later article for Cossa — I put together a few tools to collect data, citing Dadata. This publication generates customers for a couple of years. However, not everything was so simple. My first experience of getting in the media with their projects was the publication on The Village in which I mentioned Dadata. The history of this material is significant.

First, the journalist of the edition several months have not responded to my letter and then was invited for an interview. It was exciting and joyful moment, the interview turned out good, but sales were no. According to the results, it became clear that not any publication in the media makes sense — it seems that The Village simply wasnt our target audience. In 2014, I wondered what social networks you can find our B2B audience (banks, courier companies, microfinance institutions). From all the social networks these people in large quantities would have to be only in LinkedIn, so that in the year I spent on advertising in this service about 200 thousand rubles.

Heres how it looked. Ive run ads, users likely ads and clicked on them, but registered users who have stood in referrer LinkedIn, it was not. The number of registrations increased. It is possible that people saw our ads, and then directly went to our site therefore information about the referral source was not. Check it was impossible, but the idea.

“And suddenly” — kept me in LinkedIn for a year, the money continued to be spent on a flood of clicks and “likes”. But after a year decided to stop spending money on the canal, the efficiency of which I cant measure. In addition, many familiar entrepreneurs complained wasted their budgets on advertising in social networks. In General, LinkedIn is now blocked in Russia, so the question with this resource is closed completely. Since such mistakes we never made.

But this is not to say that we have figured out a way to properly advance in SMM. A project as complex as Dadata, it is not easy to promote in social networks is not a shampoo or Apple Watch. So we are promoting in social networks is not the service itself, and the article about him (“the 27 best services for courier companies”), or talk about personalization in online stores, mentioning our service. However, I still do not understand whether highly specialized projects like ours to use the functionality of the promote posts in Facebook. We receive such advertising “likes” and clicks, but often from some strange characters from the city of Grozny, which hardly interested in issues of data quality.

The money from the account debited properly. As a result, we focused on the fact that once a week published news or articles about the project in several channels. Facebook, Twitter, “VKontakte”, HumanFactorLabs. We have frozen the promotion of posts, because we dont understand how to measure its effectiveness. The relatively successful experience of publishing articles in the media have strengthened me in the opinion about the benefits of content marketing for our business.

Remained through trial and error to understand exactly how should we do it. First, as always, stood a personnel issue. I wanted to understand whom to trust with writing articles. Experience has shown that with external authors to make a good article only if they understand the subject. This greatly narrows the range of things they can do.

For example, we had to prepare the material about what to choose as a reference address for the project — KLADR (Classifier of Russia addresses — approx.ed.) or FIAS (Federal information address system — approx.ed.). To write such a text requires a deep understanding of the subject area, which is difficult to demand from the person. I especially realized this after worked with well-known in the market Agency for content marketing. We made together four fabrics that are specially targetirovanie on our target audience, but they brought us a customers — only a few signups. At the same time I was never satisfied with the quality of the materials, and make them better — even after several iterations of edits — I couldnt do it.

Therefore, complex articles we write ourselves. Material with a comparison of FIAS KLADR and written by our senior analyst. We placed it in the blog on “habré”. To date, the text read 94 thousands of times, and it has generated a large number of sales. The fact that the text and title were specifically chosen to increase the hit to us “FIAS” and “KLADR”.

These words are often looking for, but the contextual advertising on them is expensive, so content marketing is more than appropriate. There is a problem with the staff writing articles. Not everyone is interested, and other tasks they have plenty. Article for “Habra”, written by a leading analyst or product Manager, is to us very expensive. The above mentioned article for Cossa I wrote and corrected about 40 hours of pure time — in this case, the effort paid off sales.

But these articles, I can write four pieces for six months at the most. So Im always looking for good journalists who can help me write at least the first version of the article on the basis of our invoice or make editing our articles. In addition, not all it professionals know how to write well. I had to send those team members that are involved in the preparation of articles, courses editors. Helped its not for everyone, although in General became significantly better — and at the same time the quality of documentation within the company has grown.

In parallel with articles for blogs, media and social media Ive been experimenting with email newsletters. To start, it was decided not to create different automated emails for different audiences of service, and with the emails that check whether the client is satisfied with our service. The experience of such letters, I was still on the previous business at HFLabs I personally often communicate with customers on how they assess the work of our company. In Dadata I went down the same path. All new users — after some time after the start of use of the service, manually wrote the plaintext message with questions.

Letters were sent in batches by using the bcc function and then monitor the response. This approach proved to be successful. Often when a problem occurs, users do not want to complain to support, the negative is accumulated, and then they just “fall off”. But if the time to ask a question, you can open the issue and resolve it at an early stage. Every week I experimented with the wording of the letters and looked at some letters often respond.

Example. This was the letter for those users who have installed the product, but never used the processing function addresses. Now we have automated these conversations, that is, Dadata refers them automatically. But answer them I always personally because I believe that the founder of the project needs to maintain contact with users. Well, I just really like it.

Contact with customers can be used in many different ways. For example, in the correspondence I often ask satisfied customers to recommend our service — for example, on his page in social networks. People often send back links to their posts where they praised Dadata. We also set up an automatic newsletter project. Not without mistakes.

First, initially when you register we havent had a tick for the subscription — news mail received by all members. It was later revealed that some of them were very unhappy with this fact. People actively send emails to spam that MailChimp even warned us about too high abuse rate. Another mistake. At first, the news we sent out every three months.

We are actively developing product, and in this chart the letters had to be enormous because of the many innovations, which ought to tell. Now we are trying to make such distribution once a month. Thats the kind of open rates can achieve: We immediately began working with several marketing channels and gradually deal that works for us better, learn from their mistakes. Learned from successful and not-making experience helped us to make marketing more effective — this is evidenced by the revenue growth over the years:

We never spent much money on marketing. The annual budget for the purchase of advertising and payment for writing articles is about 300-400 thousand rubles. We are testing different marketing channels in small amounts, evaluate the results. If it works — it throws more money and scale the result. For example, with posts on “habré”.

First we wrote a couple of posts, and seeing the good effect of money from their publication, made a content plan and began to write almost every month. However, the last time we see a decline in the impact of publications on “habré” — it seems that this channel ceases to be effective. In 2016, we began to consider the cost of attracting a user in the context of channels and the cost of the canal and to remove business metrics for Dadata. We use UTM tags, and referrers. During the year we have published 58 publications on different resources:

With social networks is more complicated. Until we learn to measure the effectiveness of each individual post on Facebook and analyze the total traffic from this source after posting. “Vanity metrics” like likes, views and reposts for us it does not matter, important only to actual sales. Here is our sticker for the analysis of efficiency of channels: Instead of a conclusion, formulate a few tips that I hope will help founders complex B2B projects to avoid my mistakes in the promotion.

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